In the town where I grew up we knew nothing of liturgy. The church calendar was foreign. All practices that resembled anything remotely Catholic were treated with the same suspicion afforded to Ouija boards and voodoo. Of course, my little church had its rhythms, things we did every week and things we did every year. We had our liturgies, but now I’m suspicious that not much thought went into the impact our rhythms had on the shaping of our souls.
Here in the South, we have annual rhythms. There’s the start of school, Christmas, spring break, summer break, and football. These are the seasons that shape traffic, travel, time, and budgets. This cycle has built up in us and we feel the cumulative effects. I think that is why so many of us have fallen in love with the church calendar again. Perhaps there is wisdom in having the cadence of our lives guide us through the gospel every year.
Advent was the first season to grab my imagination. I confess that most of my life I have cultivated a deep disdain for the entire month of December. I despised its music, food, and demands on time and money. But here comes Advent and calls us to stillness and waiting in what is, for most people, the busiest time of year. It is a time to practice longing in a world obsessed with immediacy. It is a beautiful and shaping annual practice to stop and sit in the tension of the “already, but not yet” in which we live every day.
Plus, the music is the best. Here are four of our favorite songs for this time of year. These are the versions we do in our services and we are glad to share them. (I know Joy to the World is a Christmas song and not Advent. Don’t @ me).